In order to understand and model the biological pollution in the urban air, researchers from School of Industrial Engineering at Universidad Politécnica de Madrid (UPM) and led by Professor Diego Moreno, have developed a new innovative particulate trap that, along with the use of emerging technologies of molecular biology and the help of drones, will allow us to learn more about the microbial biodiversity in the air, known as microbiata, in different regions and seasons of the year. It is expected that the analysis of the collected data can help to develop predictive models in the future for the management of air quality in urban environments.
Traditionally, air sampling for the study of microorganisms is carried out by either filtering the air on a growth medium or filters that are later incubated. However, the most part of the biodiversity of an ecosystem is not cultivable. Aware of this limitation, UPM researchers have designed a device capable of going beyond and to achieve a global overview of the “aerobiota”.
Accordingly, researchers have developed a new portable autonomous collector of particles in the air in which the air entry is produced by the inertia when coupled to a device or vehicle (car, bus, train, tram, metro, etc.). The air passes into a collecting system through an opening front hole, and then the air crosses a micro-perforated metal plate used as a filter. The resulting particles are collected in an adhesive-coated plate. By varying the vehicle speed in which the system is coupled, we can modify the airflow and the total volume sampled. The system has a low-cost, compact and reusable design.
The development of this new sensor has been carried out by the UPM research group of Bioengineering and Materials (BIO-MAT) in the framework of a joint research program of the Community of Madrid, AIRBIOTA-CM. This consortium aims to improve the biological pollution knowledge of urban air.
By using advanced molecular biology techniques such as the massive DNA sequencing, the captured particles are analyzed in order to identify human and animal pathogens, allergens and their prevalence in different seasons in the Community of Madrid.
Besides, considering that recent scientific data suggests a possible biodiversity according to the height, the new system will also allow us to study the air biota at different heights by using drones.
According to UPM researchers, “the collected data will be assessed to develop mathematical models that will allow us to predict changes in the aerobiota composition based on factors such as height, weather or proximity to either industrial or urban environments”.
The device is patent pending (P201531836: Dispositivo captador de partículas presentes en el aire de carácter portátil y autónomo).